Things I Learned Growing Up Poor
In the summer of my teen years I used to help out on the farm of an elderly couple in rural Canada. It was great to be able to earn some money while at the same time helping out these friends of the family. I was trying to earn some money to help out my dad who had been unemployed for years. Despite growing up in a rural community I was not accustomed to farm work. I learned a lot about myself during that time in my life, one of which was that I was a natural at solving mechanical problems. It all seemed to come easily to me.
These new skills came in handy when my father later had an old broken down 1987 Mercedes 300D. When trying to figure out why an engine I had replaced wasn't working, the old man who was mentoring my mechanical ability told me something I will never forget. He said that "being poor was in a blessing." He explained to me that I would have never learned how to fix cars and solve problems in unconventional ways had I been born in a more privileged environment.
Since then I have pondered what these lessons were and why being raised poor was in fact something to be proud of. Here are some fundamental lessons I learned growing up poor.
Do It Yourself
When you are poor you have to learn how to do things for yourself
When the water pipes burst in our home during a cold Canadian winter month, I learned from my father basic plumbing skills. When the family car broke down, I learned how to fix it and keep it running. So many times our VCR's and TV's would get damaged, learning how to fix them for myself saved time, money and our sanity from boredom School taught me how to sew so I would make my own boxers and pajamas. These are lessons I have kept my whole life and have had many careers that have demanded skills that I learned from my childhood.
When you are poor you have to learn how to fix things with little to no tools or supplies
So many times I was faced with a situation where I couldn't fix something because I was missing a tool or part that cost too much to replace. So instead of giving up I learned how be resourceful and look around to make what I needed.
One day I decided that I would help out by pruning the trees in our backyard. I loved to climb trees and kicking off dead branches was just a fun thing for me to do. We didn't have a wood saw lying around so I found some scrap metal and used a hacksaw to shape an ax-head. I then bolted it to a metal tube and had a very sharp (and dangerous) ax. After that my family looked at me as a sort of strange young MacGyver.
Love Of Reading and Research
When you are poor you have to find a cheap source of entertainment
For some reason my parents loved to collect encyclopedias. We had the whole set and plenty of books on history and science. Living in rural Canada we didn't receive too many TV channels, so when I couldn't take watching PBS anymore I found myself devouring these books. I had access to more books at school, but for some reason I enjoyed reading fiction over the colorful non-fiction books offered in grade schools. My love of research continues and later helped me get through college and earn a degree in history.
I may not have had the time of my life growing up in poverty but it did have its advantages. Every job I've ever had since moving away from my parents home have included some skill I had learned from my youth. To date I have also saved a ton of money by doing all of my own home and car repairs. And in today's economy with people having less and less disposable income, trading my skills has proved to be a huge asset to my friends and family.